I work in linguistics, and I’m particularly interested in questions about the nature of meaning in natural language, and the processes by which meaning is conveyed and interpreted. I am Professor in English at the University of Liverpool. My University home page is here.
My academic background is in pragmatics, the branch of linguistics concerned with the relationship between language and the contexts in which it is used. In recent years I’ve also been working with ideas from the philosophy of language, particularly from analytic philosophy of the mid-twentieth century. These two interests are closely related. In fact, I’ve been struck by the number of similarities I’ve come across between what present-day linguists are saying about language and what has been said by those working several decades earlier in the apparently separate discipline of philosophy. The terminology and forms of expression may be different, but the ideas are sometimes very similar. One of my aims in my recent research projects has been to persuade linguists of the relevance and interest of reading the work of philosophers of language, and of looking beyond the usual ‘big names’ in this field.
I am also interested in the potential applications of pragmatics to the the stylistic analysis of literary texts. I am keen to encourage a wide-ranging discussion of the possibilities and relative merits of various different frameworks developed within modern pragmatics in relation to a variety of literary genres. In my own work I have been concentrating on possible applications of pragmatic theories in the neo-Gricean tradition to readings of specific novels.
You can read about my current projects in these areas here.